Merrill estimates 200,000 NRI millionaires in US CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ WEDNESDAY, MAY 14, 2003 0823 PM ] WASHINGTON: The image of the wealthy NRI from America is poised to get a puffy boost following estimates from the investment firm Merrill Lynch that there are 200,000 millionaires of Indian origin in the United States alone. If that seems a staggering count it would mean one in every nine Indians in the US is a millionaire, considering their total population is 1.8 million Merrill has a raft of riders and caveats. It includes not just NRIs but all people of Indian-origin; the estimate was made at the height of the 2000 technology bubble; and crucially, the definition of a millionaire is broad enough to include all assets including home ownership. Still, the 200,000 Indian-origin "Merrill Millionaires", along with their less wealthy NRIs, carry the median American NRI income to over $60,000 (compared to the national average of $38,885), making it the wealthiest immigrant group in the United States, say Merrill Lynch executives. For the record, the United States has an estimated 2.1 million millionaires, which is less than one per cent of its population compared to the nearly 10 per cent for Indian-Americans. The size of the Indian entrepreneur market in Silicon Valley alone comprised 200,000 people with wealth worth $60 billion even in late 2001 after the technology bubble, according to Jyoti Chopra, director of South Asian business at Merrill Lynch's multicultural and diversified business development group. Enough reason for the firm to expand its South Asia wealth management focus. In announcing this drive, Merrill executives said India's expertise in the information technology and software industries helped grow the wealth of many non-resident Indians in the US, but also reduced their net worth as the Internet bubble burst. The Indian community in the US was probably affected by these events more than any other expatriate community in the world. "However, this is a cohesive and resilient community and many people have renewed vigour in their business operations and investments," said Subha Barry, first vice president and head of Merrill Lynch's multicultural and diversified business development group. Chopra noted that South Asians continue to find success in the US as technology entrepreneurs, physicians and health care providers, small business owners, and corporate executives. Studies by Merrill Lynch show that the NRI community is highly conservative when it comes to business and finance, with a strong propensity towards saving. "Education and saving for future education needs, for the next generation, continues to be a high priority," says Chopra. Retirement saving and planning is also very important, particularly among segments such as NRI physicians and health care providers.